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Thursday, November 15, 2001

Some people stay up all night playing video games, mucking around on the Internet or sprucing up Web designs. I guess there are other reasons people stay up all night, but I'm sure I couldn't guess what they might be.

In my case, the video game I play is programming my TiVo. I spent two hours last night looking through all two hundred channels, trying to find something worth an hour of my time watching. Is that dumb, or what? (Well, it's not as dumb as it sounds, if it's what I enjoy doing. It's doing it at two o'clock in the morning that doesn't make sense.)

The night before, I was up killing ants at two o'clock in the morning (apparently my widest-awake and most productive time of day). I'm so spaced out that time doesn't have any meaning. I was talking with the Boss on the phone this afternoon at four (or thereabouts), and I told him it felt too dark to keep working. I have this big airy house with light streaming in all day. When it gets so dark so suddenly, it dims my motivation to keep going.

The Boss sympathized, but he didn't realize what I was really telling him. I have such poor sleep habits that I keep ramming into a wall, several times a day. It'll come over me in a wave, this weariness that makes me feel like an ancient redwood about to be toppled. It's not that I can't sleep, exactly, just that I don't. It doesn't seem that important, until the next day when my forehead hits the keyboard.

We also talked about keeping the money flowing in the business. Every time a creditor calls, he wants to pay them, whether we've collected the money for that part of our work or not. That's why we're always borrowed to the hilt, and paying as much out in interest every month as I make in salary. That sounds like a good argument for eliminating my own job. I don't think I'll make it to him.

Finally I talked him into billing some of the owners who owe us for work we've already done. We have projects going on all over the state, with a lot of work in place, and the bills are coming due. Not only that, but the labor costs have already been paid. We're sinking in the quicksand, but the Boss doesn't want to ask anyone to throw us a rope.

He wants to pay all the creditors, because we need them, but he's reluctant to ask the owners for the money they owe us, because he doesn't want to offend them. There's something wrong with that kind of reasoning. I don't think that's how most construction companies operate.

It's especially troublesome as winter approaches, because we get frozen out of a lot of work this time of year. And with the economy slowing to a glacial pace, we have little margin for indulging our weaknesses in dealing with money matters. Still, we seem to have these same discussions every year at this time, and every spring we wake up to find we're still alive. Somehow we keep struggling back to our feet, no matter how many times we slip and slide.


The birch is now almost completely bare, as seen against a gray November sky.

Part of the problem is that I don't do the actual work. All I do (me, personally) is pay the bills and try to collect what we're owed. I don't sell the jobs, and I don't build them. Other people are paid to do the real work, but every so often I get a pat on the head and a cookie. "We couldn't do this without you," I'm told. That plus a quarter still won't buy a cup of coffee.

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